The Memorial Day weekend may be everyone's start to the summer season, but for the veterans of the Island it is also a sojourn into the memories of war and a meditation on the price of peace. This year's Monday morning parade will take place in Vineyard Haven. The march starts from the American Legion Hall at 11 a.m.
Memorial Day observances begin at 1 o'clock today in Tisbury and Edgartown. More than 570 youngsters will take two separate walks to the sea, many of them carrying flowers. Edgartown elementary school students will march down Main street to Memorial Wharf for a ceremony. Schoolchildren in Tisbury will make a similar march to Owen Park. In both cases educators are hoping to instill a sense of reverence for the work of keeping the peace.
"It is important for all the children to understand what their grandfathers, their fathers know. Many have given to make this country the place that it is," said Edgartown School principal Ed Jerome. "Kids are far removed from what we traditionally know as world wars. It is harder for them to understand what it was like then. War is different today. There are fewer people around to help children understand the tremendous commitment."
The children of Edgartown School will leave the school property at 1:10 p.m. They'll be carrying American flags, flowers and patriotic twirlers. At Memorial Wharf, the school band will be conducted by Ernie Iannaccone, the school's music instrument teacher.
Seventh graders will recite President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.
Former selectman Fred B. Morgan Jr., who has spoken often on the value of duty, will talk. He is a decorated World War II veteran.
At the Tisbury School the flowers will be tossed by youngsters from Owen Park. The eighth grade class will act as monitors. The school band will perform.
American Legion commander Jo Ann Murphy will read a poem to suit the occasion, the poem recently written by a U.S. Marine corporal stationed in Kuwait.
The Island's main Memorial Day observance takes place on Monday morning. Early in the morning, at 8 a.m., a troop of volunteers will gather to erect 360 flags at the Avenue of Flags. It is the largest gathering of flags ever. Commander Murphy said that 30 new flags are being added this year to the avenue. The flags run along on both sides of a road going through the Oak Grove Cemetery.
The Memorial Day Parade takes place later in the morning. Starting at the Legion Hall at 11 a.m., the participants will march into the cemetery and along the Avenue of Flags. The parade will span the generations. There will be veterans of World War II, Korean and Vietnam wars. "I know of at least one person who is making a special arrangement to represent those in the service now," Commander Murphy said.
Jordan Baptiste, who has been part of the Memorial Day ceremonies in Vineyard Haven for many years, is making a special trip from the Coast Guard. He will participate by playing Taps on his trumpet.
The Edgartown fire department is sending along a fire truck.
The Vineyard Haven Band will be in the parade. Young Islanders from the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts will also march.
The Rev. Roger Spinney of Tisbury will offer a prayer.
Tony Peak of Tisbury will play the bagpipes.
Mr. Morgan of Edgartown will speak.
Commander Murphy said of the Monday observance: "This hits home for a lot of veterans. We are now at war. Even if you call it something else, we are at war. I don't think people realize this." Every day people are risking their lives in the pursuit of peace in an effort to resolve a difficult conflict. "I was 18 years old when I went into the service," she said. At that time the Vietnam war was raging.
She was right out of the Vineyard regional high school when she went into the service. "It didn't seem a big deal when it is you. But when I watch these young kids go into the service, it is a big deal to me now."
When Mrs. Murphy went into the service in 1972, she went into the Women's Army Corps. In August of 1974 the Women's Army Corps was absorbed into the Army. She left the service in 1975. Today, Mrs. Murphy is the county veterans agent. "I had a guy in my office this week. He remembered when he was 18 years old. This all brings back a lot of memories to us, good and bad."
Commander Murphy said she has a list of 30 people who are serving in the military today with a relative on the Island. To pay tribute to their service, she plans to pass out blue star banners to those relatives who show up at the parade. That, too, is a tradition.
The banners measure six inches by 12. She said the banners were first handed out in the Second World War. "You hung them in a window to let people know you had a relative serving. There are a lot of people serving now."